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Yakuza 6 The Song of Life

I fired up Ryu ga Gotoku 6 or Like a Dragon 6 or even as we in the west know it as, Yakuza 6, and man, what a ride it was; it is a wonderful evolution for the series and I feel it was a step in the right direction, as, objectively, the evolution works and makes gameplay more seamless and fun, while retaining (most of!) the old gameplay that the series is famous for, while providing better graphics, a still phenomenal soundtrack and a bang up story that is horribly misunderstood by the majority of the fan base, especially the fans that do not have a good working-knowledge of Japan's history (even those in Japan!). Hopefully, this review will shed some light as to why this evolution is a great step forward.

Kiryu wakes up from his blood-loss-induced blackout, to the cries of Haruka, coming to rescue him. Kiryu is transported to hospital, though the things he has done in the events of Yakuza 5, have the police coming for him and Saejima; they are both going back to jail, though Kiryu for much longer, while Saejima will just carry out the remaining months of his sentence. Haruka and Akiyama have a discussion that has Haruka realize something truly saddening; her idol days are over and coming out as the adoptive daughter of a Yakuza, will have her (and those close to her) be constantly hounded by those wanting to get information and tabloid scoops. Come a few years later, Haruka has left Asagao and has started a new life in parts unknown. Kiryu is released from prison and the orphans tell him of the happenings of the previous years, while they also reveal that Haruka has left them. Kiryu ventures back to Kamurocho, for the last time, to ascertain exactly what happened to his adoptive daughter and what he can do to make things right again. The story is nothing short of brilliant and is also an evolution, as the writers have broken the codes and conventions of past games and gone in a new direction; this new direction was absolutely not well-received by fans of the series, but that absolutely does not mean that the plot is bad; just, different. The plot also includes Triads (for more than one chapter) for the first time, which I feel is a more than welcome addition; we’ve had fighting between Yakuza clans, between Korean mafia and now Triads, which is tied in well to the main plot too. The reveals and characters introduced throughout the game, just enrich the story even more, though I must put out there, that a decent knowledge of Japanese mindset and Japanese history (specifically, World War II History), will allow one to understand the plot even more and this is another reason why certain plot points were not well-received (due to a lack of understanding).

Everything you know, and love is back in 6 and a lot of it is even better than before. The series has always evolved and gotten better at seamlessness, title to title and 6 is the best title yet, with real-time transitions into fights and entering/exiting shops and buildings; you can have a continuous session of gameplay, without any interruptions and get quite a bit done.

The fighting system has been revamped and while many moves are similar to the fighting styles of previous games, they have been slightly tweaked, for a new fighting experience, of sorts. Hostess clubs are back, after their absence in 0 and the new format makes it much easier and more enjoyable than hostess clubs in the past; even for someone who does not speak Japanese, it was easier for me to handle the question and answer parts. The arcade mini games are back and they have added a few more from 0 (Virtua Fighter *5* and Puyo Puyo being the new additions), as well as the completely revamped darts mini game, which is now much less luck-based and more skill-based (as it should be; which is something that bothered me about darts in the past games and in Shenmue, among other titles). The addition of the Sony Xperia Smartphone is welcome as well, as the interface of the menus is based around the phone and you can take advantage of all of its real-life features, such as the camera, other apps and actually connect your real-life Xperia to the controller and play with that (if you own one, which I do and this feature is insanely convenient, if you can utilize it). The CP system is back, however it is now broken down into specific areas/elements, as opposed to just one lump CP bank. This allows for more varied ways of upgrading either Kiryu or your Clan members, as well these points can now be gained from mundane tasks, such as eating at a restaurant or getting into a fight. Vending machines are another way of gaining these points and they can affect many different parts of Kiryu’s character for a temporary part of time, such as upping the money received from fights, gaining more of a certain CP point, etc. As well, like in actual, real-life Japan, there are vending machines everywhere, with a whole slew of different drinks to choose from. The gameplay has been scaled down some in various ways, though it hardly detracts from the game like many have said. To start, there are a whole slew of weapons in the game, however they are only available during battle and cannot be purchased/modified/accessed outside of battle. Adding to that, there are many, many heat actions in the game, though there are not the 150+ that 0 had... but they are just as brutal and vicious! Another gameplay area that was not well-received, was that Park Street and above is inaccessible for the entire game, though, again, this hardly detracts from the game. The addition of Onomichi varies the gameplay up in a large way and it is wonderful to explore yet another location in Japan. The new mini games, namely Spearfishing (which is challenging and a ton of fun), Sandlot Baseball (which is arguably my favorite mini game in the series, loads of fun and strategic as well) and the granddaddy, Clan Creator (also awesome and it will return in Kiwami 2), which will eat up a good part of time and is a ton of fun, are more than welcome and work perfectly in the context of the game. Clan Creator also features six prominent Japanese wrestlers, whose likenesses are captured almost to a T. As mentioned, well-received or not, the evolution of the series is a step in the right direction and things will assuredly go up from here, from a gameplay standpoint. Another step in the right direction, was breaking the series story formula, which worked brilliantly in 6.

Arguably the best part of the game, the soundtrack, voice work and sound effects are simply outstanding. Beginning with the voice work, the voice actors have simply done it again, with Takaya Kuroda being the standout he always is and Rie Kugimiya doing a great job as well. Tatsuya Fujiwara returns as Kiryu’s understudy (though this time as Yuuta) and does a phenomenal job as well. The addition of Chinese voice actors is superb as well, with such seamlessness between languages, they do brilliant work. The best of all the guest stars though, is undoubtedly Takeshi Kitano, who does arguably the best guest voice work in the entire series. The man just exudes character, both in the tone of his voice and the demeanor of his voice; there is a reason why he is one of Japan’s biggest stars on any medium. The sound effects are fantastic as well, with all of your crashing and bashing to fill your enjoyment meter up, as well as the wonderful sounds of the sea and the baseball diamond, in their respective mini games. The best part of the sound element in this game however, is quite clearly the soundtrack. Hyd Lunch and Zenta are back to rock you out with their incredible tunes, but there is some wonderful mood and atmospheric music as well, that fits the game brilliantly. Adding to that, Tatsuro Yamashita provides the opening and closing themes and they are wonderful tunes indeed, fitting in with the plot of the game and the events, just so well. Sound are great and so is the replay.

The series has gotten revamped, title to title (though I still feel that 4 looks worse than 3!) but the step up to a new engine and developed exclusively on a current-gen console, has displayed the best graphics yet in the series, by far. I will admit that all characters from past games look slightly different here and there, but their realism is much more accurate and their models are done superbly as well. The locations look phenomenal and again, incredibly realistic; I would have to easily claim 6 as the most realistic-looking title in the series and by a wide margin. Playing on your Xperia as well displays wonderful graphics and no visual slowdowns or other issues. Speaking of issues, many fans have reported screen-tearing and other related graphical glitches, however I can honestly say that I never ran into even one of these situations and I own a launch-day PS4, thus your mileage may vary. Another puzzling part of the graphics, is that the game is 30 FPS, which hardly detracts from the game (it looks just fine), but it’s a bit different than 0, which was in 60 FPS. Great stuff all over, which will spill into the sounds.

This is one of the few elements where 6 does not match up to the rest of the series; you will be playing this game for at least 65 hours, which is a lot of time to spend playing a game offline, nowadays, however as veterans of the series can attest, this is significantly shorter than the other games in the series. For my tastes, this is perfect, because life so busy nowadays, who has 150 hours to set aside? While many will see the lower amount of time as a bad thing, again, evolution-wise, it is more for the modern, work-a-day world, that the already long length of gameplay time, has been shortened to fit the needs of the modern, adult gamer. The mini game completion is no longer as ridiculously extensive as it is in other titles, though it will still require quite a bit of time. As well, the extras in-game will keep you more than occupied for a while, thus the replay value is high, with 6.

Buy or rent?

Buy the game. Support the franchise, enjoy yourself and be happy you played an amazing title.

After reading the many skeptics and negatives about this game, I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive in playing it and I probably put it off a bit longer than I initially intended to, however 6 has proven that you really need to play things for yourself and make up your own mind, before listening to others; the story is indeed amazing, you just need to understand the context behind things and the fact that the script was flipped at times, makes for a fresh, new adventure. The gameplay is much more refined and focused, even if it has been scaled down at times; I find it makes for a more fun and efficient experience. If this is going to be the look and feel of the series going forward (especially on PS4), I think the fans are in for a great time and that the series will go nowhere but up; the changes work superbly, the game looks and sounds brand new and most important, this is a very fresh title and a welcome addition, to an already phenomenal series

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